Over the years we have been contacted repeatedly by rescuers and lay people, who were caring for corvids such as magpies, jackdaws and crows, and who observed that their foster birds showed difficulties with flying despite appearing otherwise fit and healthy. Some of these birds demonstrated abnormal flight feathers and showed an unusual or even abnormal behaviour not normally expected in wild birds. A closer assessment of the plumage showed quite quickly that these birds had been wing clipped.
All wild birds are protected during nesting season. This includes their nests, whilst in use or being built, as well as any eggs the nest may contain. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) it is an offence to:
- intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird,
- intentionally damage, destroy or take the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built,
- intentionally destroy an egg of any wild bird
- and intentionally or recklessly disturb certain wild birds or their dependent young while they are nesting.
Domestication and Pet Ownership
Ethically seen it is quite obvious – domestication and pet ownership violate the fundamental rights of non-human animals. When talking about basic animal rights, then we really should only talk about one basic right – the right not to be regarded as ‘property’. If we agree on the fact that human and non-human animals are not ‘things’ or ‘objects’, then they cannot be a property. Also, if human and non-human animals are regarded as ‘objects’, then they logically cannot have an intrinsic value, and therefore they cannot have any rights. Only the owner of an object, or in our case a pet, has got rights, not the object or the pet itself.
This story occurred a couple of years ago, but the described scenario and underlying problem is as timeless as ever. During my evening shift as marine mammal surveyor on board of a ferry on route to Santander in Spain, I was forced to witness a small group of lost racing pigeons loosing their fight against the strong winds of the Bay of Biscay. I had to watch the drama unfolding, and there was nothing I could do to help. In this respect, spring and autumn surveys are known to be particularly emotionally demanding, as surveyors are regularly forced to helplessly watch the struggle of travelling and migrating birds. This situation is neither unexpected nor unique, but can be emotionally draining. At the very least, it feels very surreal when witnessing tragedies like this one on board of a luxurious ferry, where most people are busy enjoying their lives and holidays. Most of these tragic encounters go unnoticed and are missed even by keen birders and whale and dolphin enthusiasts armed with expensive gear.